With a population of 17, 200 it’s hard to believe that Akureyri is Iceland’s second largest city. Situated within 100km of the Arctic Circle, it’s a jumping off point for some of the most exciting adventure sports and natural wonders for the entire island. We arrived in the late afternoon, and took a spin through the town, but I have to say we were more than a little underwhelmed. I think we had built up the town in our minds, after listening to Adia sing its praises and reading about its beautiful setting.
I stumbled across this short video that shows Akureyri’s charms during the different season. This may give you a better impression of the town, better from what I can relate: Visit Akureyri.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
The streets were mostly deserted, probably the students were still in school and the workers were busy in the offices. It was a weekday after all, summer was long gone and winter was in the air. The previous week had seen the first snowfall of the season and though the streets were now clear, the snow was still in evidence on the nearby mountaintops.
We had booked accommodation for two nights at a guesthouse 15km beyond Akureyri itself, partly in order to be that much closer to Lake Mývatn, the location of several of Iceland’s most talked about geothermal sites. We crossed the fjord outside of the town and drove northwards along the opposite shore watching out for a sign indicating our bed for the night. We had no address, just a distance to travel and we hoped we wouldn’t overshoot our target and have to double back.
Along the way, I spotted the most amazing horse, grazing in a corral beside the road. He had a white-blond shock of hair surrounding his face and I was immediately reminded of Rod Stewart, the equally hairy rock star. I had Anil pull over so I could capture him on for my photo album. He seemed to stand there wondering what all the fuss was about.
We spotted the sign to our guesthouse with ease, and turned off the highway. I was a little dismayed to see the doorsill of the guesthouse in dire need of some paint and wondered if the rest of the building needed attention as well. It required a little bit of an adjustment to have left the lovely Bjarg and arrive at a care-worn family farm, but the friendliness of our hosts put our minds at ease immediately. The view from the front porch was breathtaking and more than made up for the lack of paint on the nearby wood.
It had been a long day of driving, but we had heard such wonderful things about the energy in Akureyri on a weekend night, that we pushed ourselves to drive back into town to have dinner. We drove the dark, quiet streets, as quiet as they had been during the afternoon hours and decided that we hadn’t taken into account that once the days began to shorten, the wild nights of summer were gone too.
We headed back to our guesthouse and made do with the picnic supplies we carried for just such an occurrence. We had boiled some eggs in the Bjarg kitchen that morning and ate them with cheese, bread and some olives. Not a gourmet meal, but better than hot dogs and Coke for sure.
When we checked in we had asked about the hot tub and whether it was available for our use in the evening. We were informed that it had just been cleaned and was being refilled as we spoke. We asked it the temperature could be increased slightly because the one we had tested near Vik was a tepid 36 degrees and us Canadians are much more accustomed to hot tubs being closer to 40 degrees.
We came out an hour later to find the hot tub filled and piping hot too. We sank into the natural spring water and twitched our noses at the smell of sulphur. Of course the water in the hot tub would smell just like the hot water in the taps. I just realized that I have failed to mention that in Iceland’s water taps, the cold water is fresh and tasty, perfectly safe to drink, but the hot water smells faintly like rotten eggs. It takes a little getting used to.
We were up early the next morning and had a hearty breakfast to make up for the light supper the night before. To our surprise, the only eggs on offer were hard boiled, and we ate these with bread, cheese and some tomato slices, not too much of a change from dinner at all. There was a selection of sliced meats but I tend to stay away from prepared meats because I want avoid the migraine headaches that the additives sometimes cause.
We were off to Lake Mývatn, bathing suits in hand for our first plunge into a geothermal spa.